Religious Pluralism in the Late Ottoman Balkans

with Nathalie Clayer

hosted by Chris Gratien and Nir Shafir

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While the millet system has been used as a means of studying the special case of religious pluralism in the Ottoman Empire, many have pointed to the limitations of this framework in which religious communities appears as segmented units separate by firm boundaries. In this interview with Nathalie Clayer, we discuss new ways of thinking about religious pluralism in the Ottoman Empire through the case of the late Ottoman Balkans by interrogating notions such as conversion, orthodoxy, and ethnic identity.

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Nathalie Clayer is a professor at the EHESS and a senior research fellow at the CNRS (Paris). Her main research interests are religion, nationalism and state-building process in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman space. Her publications include Aux origines du nationalisme albanais. La naissance d’une nation majoritairement musulmane en Europe (Karthala, 2007), Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans (Tauris, 2011) co-edited with Hannes Grandits and Robert Pichler, and Penser, agir et vivre dans l’Empire ottoman et en Turquie (Peeters, 2013), co-edited with Erdal Kaynar.
Chris Gratien holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University's Department of History. His research focuses on the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region from the 1850s until the 1950s.
Nir Shafir is a historian of the Middle East whose research examines the intersections of knowledge production, religious practice, and material culture in the early modern world (1400-1800). He curates Ottoman History Podcast’s series on history of science in addition to being one of the co-founders of, a website that explores the archives and libraries of the Islamic world. He is currently an advanced doctoral candidate in the History Department at UCLA.


Episode No. 268
Release Date: 9 September 2016
Recording Location: EHESS, Paris
Editing and production by Chris Gratien
Sound excerpts: Baglamamin Dugumu - Necmiye Ararat and MuzafferEgil Daglar Ustunden Asam - Viktoriya HanimHarmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for allowing us to use the composition "Istanbul" in the intro music and to Muhtelif for the use of "Ta Paidia & Lamma Bada"


Blumi, Isa. Reinstating the Ottomans: Alternative Balkan Modernities, 1800-1912. Springer, 2011.

Clayer, Nathalie. “The Bektashi Institutions in Southeastern Europe: Alternative Muslim Official Structures and their Limits”,Die Welt des Islams, 52 (2012), pp. 183-203.

______. Aux origines du nationalisme albanais. La naissance d’une nation majoritairement musulmane en Europe, Paris, Karthala, 2007, 794 p.

______. Religion et nation chez les Albanais, XIXe-XXe siècles, Istanbul, Isis, 2003, 449 p.

Deringil, Selim. Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire. 2012.

Kechriotis, Vangelis. ‘The Modernisation of the Empire and the ‘Community Privileges’: Greek responses to the Young Turk policies’ in Touraj Atabaki (ed.), The State and the Subaltern. Society and Politics in Turkey and Iran, London, I. B.Tauris, 2007, 53-70.

Krstić, Tijana. Contested Conversions to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. 2011. 

Türkyılmaz, Zeynep. “Anxieties of Conversion: Missionaries, State and Heterodox Communities in the Late Ottoman Empire.” Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 2009.


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